The Stolen Ones
“When the governor of Pennsylvania ordered the hospital closed, and the main buildings were torn down, a lot of the patients were simply released onto the streets of Philadelphia. Some were sent to group homes, some to other long-term institutions. Most were given fifty dollars and a bus schedule.”
Then there was a resident of that hospital by the name of Luther Wade. He escaped into the underground, living for decades in the tunnels beneath the city. Born while his mother was being held at the Cold River institution, he soon found ways to blend in. He knew how to stay in the shadows and travel the routes that would almost guarantee his invisibility. It might have stayed that way if doctors at the asylum hadn’t tried the experiments. Of course, these weren’t sanctioned experiments, and many patients died when they went wrong. It mattered little, for there was rarely anyone around to care. Now, though, with the danger of discovery looming all these years later, something triggers in Luther. And people begin to die.
"With complex plotting at breakneck pacing, THE STOLEN ONES gets you guessing right from the start and then twists and turns relentlessly."
Jessica Balzano is trying to juggle her role as wife, mother, law student and Philadelphia police detective. Her partner, Kevin Byrne, tries to help her as much as possible, but it will take more than the two of them to solve the murders that have begun to plague their city. Balzano is assigned to the open/unsolved squad, a position that normally carries the lightest work load. But when she arrives at work one morning, she can tell from her sergeant’s face that is about to change.
About a month ago, the body of a man named Robert Freitag was found in Priory Park, an obvious victim of homicide. The detective who caught the case himself died a few days into the investigation. His notes were sparse, to say the least. The tumor in his brain had seen to that. So Balzano and Byrne are starting nearly from scratch. But they have little time to play catch-up before another body surfaces in Priory Park. With dawning horror, they begin to fear that the City of Brotherly Love is seeing the work of a budding serial killer.
A few nights into the case, they nearly run down a toddler in the street, a beautiful blond girl who doesn’t speak a word. Their first duty is to concentrate on the murders, but they can’t resist taking time out to try to track down the child’s parents, unfortunately with no success. Disheartened, they contact the appropriate authorities and get back to solving the Priory Park crimes. What they don’t know is that the mute girl might be the key to their killer’s identity.
With complex plotting at breakneck pacing, THE STOLEN ONES gets you guessing right from the start and then twists and turns relentlessly. Without moralizing, Richard Montanari plants the seed of doubt about how we handle the mentally ill. Was it really a good idea to close so many state hospitals, especially the ones that housed the criminally insane? Here, Montanari has imagined the consequences of setting the wrong person loose in a city of a million and a half people. Not only does he present a chilling scenario, he is masterful at creating clever dialogue and doesn’t waste time getting to the action. Thriller fans will eat this one up.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on February 28, 2014